East Texas Reds
I love the Texas Gulf Coast. I just got back from fishing in Port Mansfield, a speck of a town about 40 miles north of the Rio Grande.
My trip went like this: Fly into Houston to test a boat, drive four hours South to Port Aransas to check in with colleagues for a work event, then wake up at six the next morning and drive three hours to Port Mansfield to fish for redfish. The state is so big you have to drive aeons to get anywhere.
The next morning we fished with Blue Cyclone Charters (firstname.lastname@example.org). And who guided us around the bay but Roy Lee Evans, the Blue Cyclone himself. He earned the nickname because, “In my younger days I liked to fight, and I was pretty good at it.”
Roy Lee runs a 20-foot skiff that has absolutely no freeboard. The idea is to step on and off the boat to wade fish. Texas anglers like to run to a flat, then hop in and stalk fish on foot. Running this boat is like running a giant surfboard with an outboard, there’s nothing holding you in. It’s disconcerting. But the boat fishes shallow, and does it well.
The 20-knot wind stirred up the water and prevented any chance of site fishing, so we actually stayed in the boat, or on it really, and drifted over shallow flats, blind-casting soft plastics to where we thought the reds should be. It was like drifting a rip for stripers, but in 8-10 inches of water. Ol’ Roy Lee knew what he was doing. We caught a decent redfish on almost every drift.
Fishing for reds in Texas is different than fishing for them in Florida, where the fish are harder to find and harder to fool. Maybe because the fishing pressure just isn’t there. These fish get worked hard, but not day after day after day. In the summer, anglers from other parts of the state come down, but, as Roy Lee put it, most of the year “The population’s 500, but I bet you couldn’t count 500 between people and seagulls.” And it’s far away from almost everywhere.
Still, hooking a redfish is the same. I love the sound of the drag humming as the fish makes its first run. They’re not speedsters or acrobats or anything like that, just pure power runners. And, as far as my temperament goes, I’d rather hook a redfish than watch another @#%%!!! bonefish swim away, mocking me.